Aug 31, 2011

The house we played...

I loved to play house with Muthu. Muthu helped Mom with household errands. She was from a nearby village and would visit her home may be once or twice a month. Other days she was ours to keep. Her real name was Muppidathi but Mom named her Muthu which means pearl.

I guess I was in 4th grade when Muthu joined our family. Delight was only a few months old. Muthu was may be two or three years older than me. She refused to go to school but while with us learned to read and write. By the time she left our home for settling down she was reading Bible very fluently.

Delight was a baby still and Akka didn't care for any play so Muthu turned out to be my best playmate. When Muthu is done with her chores we would play our favorite game of 'House'. Our spot was the shade under our coconut trees in the back yard.

First thing we do is build our house. We gather sand with both hands to run a small heap along the edges of the house - a big rectangle. Then we would part it into rooms with kitchen always being our main focus. Muthu was good with ideas as house keeping was her profession. I would copy most of her ideas and then will demand her house shouldn't be exactly like mine. Quickly she would erase her wall and build it a different way and without doubt I would like that model. She would let me have it generously.

I would pick my spot first and will find a big shaded area. But if during the play the sun shifts giving her more shade than me, I would demand we move our house... she would oblige.

When our house is built, we would go find vessels to cook. Mostly it would be coconut shells of different shapes and sizes. Since Muthu helped in the kitchen she knew how to break the coconut differently each time to make differently shaped 'vessels' for our later play. Again I would ask for every good one and she won't argue. We also had tons of plastic toy cooking set that Mom bought for me from exhibitions at Tirunelveli or Madurai when she goes there for paper valuation.

One of us would play shopkeeper selling mud for rice and water for oil and the like. We would have a handmade balance - made of two equal size coconut shells hanging from a stick. When I play the shopkeeper I would insist Muthu comes shopping all the time. But when she plays the shopkeeper I would not go shopping but would go and collect all the stuff myself. When she asks how come I started cooking without doing any shopping, I would say, 'we got rice and oil from our native place'.

Then our 'cooking' would start. Muthu was a treasure box when it came to ideas. Different kinds of leaves and flowers and seeds and even some rocks she would find, calling it a different vegetable. But rice was always mud. We would pretend to season it, fry it and cook it and soon lunch would be ready. We would invite each other to our homes to eat.

When Muthu comes over she would 'eat' nicely asking for seconds, complimenting the 'dishes', asking for 'recipe' and even making a burping sound. But when I go over I would refuse to eat saying, 'I am not hungry; I just ate'. Muthu would insist I eat or she would quit playing (that is the only time she would blackmail to quit) and hesitantly I would oblige - but 'eat' only a little. Once again that was the meanest me at work there.

Then we would wash our vessels; for that we need water. Muthu would build a well with a bucket and we tie teeny tiny plastic bucket in a rope to carry water out of the well. We would gather dry neem leaves and remove the leaves to get the center stick, which we would then tie together to make a broom. We would soon be sweeping our house and planting some garden and the like.

Before long Grandma would call Muthu for some errands and she would run inside. Before Grandma finds a chore for me, I would run outside...

P.S: Muthu is now married and has four children of her own. If she hears I am in town without fail she would come visit me. However she didn't come last time and I believe it is now my turn to visit her next time - and of course eat whatever she gives me. I am not that mean anymore you see...

Aug 29, 2011

Simply Speaking...

"Life is a discovery of oneself" starts his 'About Me' page. @A as we know him hails from North Carolina and brings us travel snapshots from around the world which are indeed picture perfect.

Though pictures are his passion he is also good at poems, prose and fiction. He often ends his posts with an open question to the readers which makes every one participate in every post. Questions like "Who is the photographer?" or "Where did I take this?" will have you baffled for sure if you are like me.

He is a great friend too. Often times there are mundane issues like a 'long day' or 'too much work' I would turn to @A with a quick note and without fail he would respond with an encouraging note back. That is an awesome quality which is rare to find.

It is easy to find your way in @A's blog as he keeps it well organized with neatly categorized tabs such as Stories, Photos, Poems etc. My favorite of his post is one of his stories: My first love. It took some convincing on his part to prove to his wife that it was fiction, whole fiction and nothing but the fiction. @A is a great photographer too. When you visit him, don't forget to check out his Photo Log.

Whether you are a veteran blogger or a newbie, @A can help - mostly by his encouraging comments which are also sincere. @A was my first blogger friend and thru' him I have met most of my fellow bloggers. When I land on a new blog, if I see @A's comments there I feel at home. But then that is true not only of @A but all my blog friends.

@A has tips for better NRI living and takes you along on his frequent flier miles. You will never regret spending some time at @A's virtual home at Simply Speaking by "A" Simple Blogger.

Now, for those who are wondering what I am upto, this is the first in my series called: "NRIGirl's Favblog!". These will be random posts on a specific blogger with links to my favorite posts in his/her blog. Why I do that? Just showing off my friends in the blogosphere... Good enough reason I guess.

The order in which these posts appear has no bearing on my preference whatsoever. It is just how my mind flows on a particular day... Can't wait to see who's next!

Aug 28, 2011

Sharing Irene

Here's an attempt to share some Irene...


Irene's arrival was announced few days ago and we were unsure if she would stop by Morris County NJ on the way. Friends from other counties had received warning about Irene's fury and some of them rushed to higher grounds with their little babies and aging parents.

Morris County has one advantage that it is about 50 miles from the ocean and where we live (Jefferson Township) is over 1000 ft above the sea level. There was no warning for us. However we were at the risk of losing power, falling trees, heavy wind and of course a lot of rain.

We started making phone calls to friends and families around to come over to our place if they needed to evacuate or they were just afraid and needed to be in company. We had a big fish fried into many pieces, one big sambar and a lot of rice in case friends came over.

We had bought drinking water, bread and the like that we could survive on if we lose the power for days. We took pictures of every room to keep an account of what we had in case the storm hits us and we need to claim our insurance. Moved the garden pots indoor, downed the basket ball hoop to the ground, filled the bath tubs with water for later use if water stops and decided to sleep in the basement which is the only concrete structure in the house. Then we prayed and slept.

It has been raining, raining and raining non stop for more than 48 hours now. Yes, it is windy too. But we are all safe and sound. Haven't ventured out to see if the roof is in place but have no doubt it is. Meanwhile watching news on calamities caused by Irene in the nearby towns and other eastern states. Not sure if I feel relieved that we are not among the 9 million that lost power, but thankful - very thankful that we are just fine.

I will click publish now and then see if I can take a mini video to post along. Please check back in a while...

Aug 25, 2011

My cup of coffee

A cup of coffee is one thing I look forward to in a day's event. But lately it is the one thing that keeps eluding me. Okay let me explain.

After sending off  Israel around 7:00 in the morning I set a cup of milk in the microwave to warm for 1 min 30 sec. Then my day starts. Grabbing my laptop I sit down to check my emails, apply for jobs, call recruiters and before I know it it is 9:30. Children start coming down one by one.

Joshua takes me out to the garden to show the single cucumber that is getting bigger each day. He then speculates on deers and other nocturnal that could have eaten some fruits or flowers. Invariably the fence door is open and Joshua claims the deer pushes it open and we talk about what could be done like setting up a surveillance camera to catch the culprit in action. Yes, this is our every day conversation in case you are wondering.

Joshua likes waffles for breakfast - the one with chocolate chip. Served with a glass of cold milk sets him on his track for his rest of the day activities - watching TV, playing video games or wii etc.

Then Sharon pops up. These days she takes extra care with her hair. She combs it smooth first thing in the morning. Yeah, there is a story behind it. Sharon was running wild - I mean her hair was running wild with no sight of comb in days, all my pleas were ignored in her jumpy spirit and then came a day when she had a ball of stubborn knot in her hair. She was in tears when we resorted to the help of scissors to get rid of it. Since then she has learned to tame her hair.

Sharon doesn't care for breakfast. Or does she? If we have waffles she will ask for pancakes and if we make pancakes she would prefer toast. Is it her? No, it is me. I was just like her - giving a hard time to Mom for every single meal. So I understand from where she comes from. Mostly I oblige but these days I tell her to make it herself. She would rather eat some air and skip breakfast altogether. Then I would insist on a glass of milk. She wouldn't agree and will claim orange juice and when I give in, she would rather have soda. Soda for breakfast, you might wonder. My answer would be, " least that."

Here comes Rachel with a cheerful "Good morning Mommy!". "Did you make your bed?" would be my response. She drags herself back upstairs reluctantly. Then I call out after her, "Rachel please make yourself some breakfast". She does mostly. Bread or waffle or bagel or anything with cream cheese - she would eat. Drinks milk. She is good. Obeys. Always. That too worries me, how is she going to survive, won't people take advantage of her, etc.

As one by one they settle into their vacation schedule, I am back to my laptop checking emails, job posts, calling people, sending out resume and before you know it it's noon! I pull myself up to go around looking for the lunch menu. No heavy cooking. Children would survive on yogurt rice with shrimp or egg or chicken. Or I can quickly make them chicken quesadillas or toss a pizza or a tray of lasagna in the oven. It's a breeze.

For dinner I worry. Israel is not very fond of non-veg these days and demands vegetables. This is time consuming as each vegetable has to be cut certain way. For whatever reason my sambar comes out ugly too. It is the same ingredients as always, same procedure as always, but not the same curry it turns out. Israel thinks there is less love in it. Could it be? I remember the days when it was worse and he seemed to have loved it or at least that's what he said -it was then - ten years ago. When it comes out excellent these days, he opts for pizza or quesadillas like the kids and then the next day hates the "old sambar". Yeah, so he is right - there is less love in it - on his part!

When it is all said and done, I mean the longing for the past, the resumes, the meals and the clean ups after, I retrieve to make myself a cup of coffee. Awaiting me in the microwave is the cup of milk I set up to warm for 1 min 30 sec first thing this morning! Please excuse me folks, let me grab it before it eludes again...

Aug 24, 2011

Suggestions Welcome

Hello there! What's news? Nothing special here as the exciting summer plans are behind us already, the long sunny days seem to be dragging forever and my job search itself feels like a full time job in itself.

I was thinking of ways to bring us all together yet again and an idea came to my mind. Not sure if you would agree but let me try...

 If you can suggest me one great blogger or blog post that you have read or written please share a link via email at nrigirl at hotmail dot com. I will combine them all in a new series called "Readers Choice" with a little note on the blogger and of course you too. The blog post itself will get a "Readers Choice Award"!

Now you may ask what defines a great blog post - that is totally upto you. It could be a poem or post or picture that inspired you somehow. What if you like multiple posts? No problem; the more the merrier!

For it? Great! Let's go! No? Oh no! What else can we work on together? I am open for suggestions. Please bring it on...

Aug 18, 2011

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is a huge stretch of land (480 acres to be exact) with natural sand/rock formation in the middle of Colorado Springs. It is a gift to the city by one man - Charles Elliott Perkins - who owned it as his summer home - with the following condition: "where it shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park."

When we arrived the sun was scorching. Not sure if it was the sun or something else I was not my usual cheery self. Oh I remember what the problem was - I had looked at few of my pictures in the camera and was so disappointed that no pictures came close to what we saw. This was a perfect opportunity to demand for the latest and greatest camera, right? I thought so too. But when I just opened my mouth Israel was like "This is SLR. Minolta - one of the best! Learn how to use it!" and Mom was like "Go for some classes to learn to take pictures..." and I was like (to myself) "How is it my fault if the camera is outdated and not user friendly?"

The sand/rock formation was well spectacular I should say, but honestly I was not very thrilled as I would otherwise be. Water thrills me - be it in the form of river, stream, sea, or falls - but these huge rock formations somehow didn't do the trick. Green thrills me - trees, grass, plants, moss etc - but brown? - that is not quite my taste.

Israel on the other hand was very impressed. He insisted we come back again a second time just to explore more and we did - just the two of us. It was a 'leisure strolling and some rock climbing and a lot of people watching' kind of visit - anything more interesting than that?! There were a few trails, horse back riding etc but we did not opt for that.

Here are some pictures in an attempt to take you along...

Aug 13, 2011

Visting a Gold Mine

On the Streets of Victor, Colorado
Victor, Colorado was unique from any other town we have visited. It was hard to believe we were still in the United States of America. The buildings dating back to 1800's ,antique sign boards and street lights, commercials written on the walls reminded us of the by gone era. Life was set at a slow motion, people were laid back, there seemed absolutely no hurry to pave the roads or build new building. It was almost like everything was in a trance - looking through the dust we had created driving to town.

Cripple Creek & Victor museum gave us a warm welcome - or so I would like to say - there was hardly anyone except the clerk when we arrived. Then one by one people started to come - all serious kind - no smiling faces or friendly gestures and absolutely no kids. So what? Here we are with three lovely kids all eager and excited about the trip. After some formalities like signing the release forms, watching a short instructional video and fitting us with a safety helmet and glasses, we were on the tour! A tour to one of the working Gold mines in the States.

Inside the gold mine
We normally think of mines going deep underground, but this was a mine going deep above ground! Let me clarify. What they are doing is breaking the HUGE mountains from top and making the holes wider and wider and wider to make roads inside, and leave the uncut portions as high walls and clearing the trees and everything on the way thus forming a 800 feet mine measuring from the mountain top from where the drilling first started! Trust me, this was news to us and a huge relief to me as I was a little nervous about taking the kids into underground tunnels.

The bus driver also acted as the tour guide. As we drove deeper and deeper into the mine she showed us different size trucks each called by a model # (like 521, 537 etc.), way too bigger than the normal ones we have seen on the roads. These were monster machines with monster "arms" and "fingers" capable of loading themselves with tons of gold ore, overkill or other rocks. When I say tons I mean tons - 300 tons! 400 tons! etc depending on the model. What struck me most was that in one truck load on the average they would get 3 to 4 oz of gold! "Is that all?!" we asked.

Monster machines!

The trucks take the ore to the crusher where they are broken into 3/4 inch pieces. At the end of the crusher there are other huge trucks lined up to carry the broken down ore to pile as mountains elsewhere, where a .035% cyanide solution is poured through the pile thus separating the gold from the rock and collecting it into an underground pool.

The liquid gold is then purified through flames made of coconut shells from Srilanka to finally become solid gold. In this particular mine they do a pour every Thursday and their per day gold is approximately 800 oz!! We were convinced their hard work thus pays off.

Aug 12, 2011

Here's a video of the Cowboys

Just to cover all those who disappointed by lack of pictures in the earlier posts, here's sharing a video from the Cowboy music. This is my first ever You Tube posting as well - all for you folks :)

Also, here's a picture of the Native American Indian performance... We were not much into pictures that evening.

Aug 11, 2011

Chuckwagon Supper

Welcome to Chuckwagon supper in Flying w Ranch! It is dinner followed by country singing in cowboy style. We weren't sure if children would enjoy it and also they were complaining that they didn't get enough time at the pool and so we decided to leave Mom and kids behind at the hotel and left for the supper - just the two of us.

It was a lovely evening, the temperature had started to become pleasant and bearable, it was still day light and we managed to click the picture of the entrance post this time. Inside the ranch there were several activities going on. Ranch homes from the past were on exhibits, some were set up as stores inside where we could buy memorabilia and snacks and such. Still most rooms were kept intact to understand how people lived in this part of the world not so long ago. What struck me the most was how closely it resembled my Grandma's home - a sewing machine in one corner, a cot against the wall, a dress hanging by the rope tied in one corner across the room, a Bible by the bedside shelf, wooden toys here and there... etc. I took some pride knowing my Grandma lived in style - that too western cowboy style :)

In another corner of the ranch they had a performance by American Indians (Red Indians as we know them). They danced and flipped in the air to the heavy drum beats, did some trick with sticks and hula hoops and what not! It was amazing. There was a huge crowd enjoying the show - only till they passed out baskets for donations. It was quite interesting to see most of the crowd dispersing quickly clutching their wallet. To be honest Israel too pulled me along - saying we will be late for the dinner... reluctantly I followed all the while feeling sorry for the performers and kidding myself for not bringing my purse with me.

Sharp at 7:00 the bell rang announcing dinner will be served soon as we rushed to find our tables. There was a brief introduction of the history of the Chuckwagon dinner over the past 60 years and instructions on how food will be served and how to avoid a mayhem finding our tables after getting our food etc. Grace was said. The tables were color coded and we were called in according to the colors. So when red was called we filed in with our fellow table mates to the kitchen.

I must tell you about the kitchen. It was a familiar site with aluminium pots and pans and utensils - very similar to the kitchen in some Children's home I have seen when we were little. There was a tall stick with a sickle attached to one end - that could be used to pluck coconuts or other fruits from tall trees - leaned against a wall, there was another bigger sickle kept at the window sill top, smokey room with very little opening called a "window", it was a sight to see. It was an all too familiar scene from decades ago when my Uncle served in the Children's home ministry my Grandpa had helped establish.

The plates and cups were also made of aluminium, we grabbed ours and stood in the line to be served, a decent piece of steak or beef or chicken depending on your choice, a steaming baked potato wrapped in foil, home cooked corn cakes, apple sauce, biscuits and butter and coffee or lemonade or apple cider. The portions were huge and the flavor was incredible. We got back to our table and started to devour  the meal. Our table mates had joined and we had exchanged nothing more than smiles and nodding of the heads. I was like 'Hmm... way different from NJ where people would start a conversation right off the bat!'

Sometime during the meal there was a little tug at my shirt by the little girl at the table next to me. Her question was direct: "Where are you from?" My response was: "New Jersey! Where are you from?" Her: "Kansas!" (causing her family to join in and say hello.

Me a typical Jersey girl started off at once:
"Where in Kansas?"
"How far was the drive?"
"Have you come here before?"
"What is your name?"
"Which grade you are in?" etc etc.

She was Aliya from Kansas and was going to 5th grade, the oldest of six siblings and they too were here in Colorado Springs for a wedding. By then the whole family had joined the conversation and we were introduced to two sets of grand parents and the shy siblings. Aliya's grandfather is a farm owner from Kansas and he gave us a open invitation to keep in touch anytime we visit Kansas.

Soon the show started - cowboys singing beautiful western songs playing guitar and violin.They would poke fun at each other between the songs and it was hilarious. Some of my favorite songs were Lonesome Wind, El Paso, Western Skies, Cool Clear Water, Western Soul etc. Each song would take you to the scene and captivate your attention to what was happening around you - the cowboy who was in love with a Mexican maiden, the thirsty cowboy who looks around for some water - cool clear water, the cowboy who had no other company than the lonesome wind, etc.

I loved it all. Israel too. The fun part was when they taught us how to do cowboy yodel. What I learnt I'll pass it on to you folks with a knock-knock joke to help you...

Knock! Knock!
Who is there?
Little old lady
Little old lady who?

There you go! You just learnt to yodel!

Aug 9, 2011

Cowboy Church

One of our must see in the list was the Cowboy Church and the Chuckwagon Supper at the Flying with the Wranglers Ranch.

For the first time in life we saw western ranches on our drive from Canyon City to Colorado Springs. Israel brought us through the longer scenic route as we were not in a hurry. A ranch appears to be acres of land owned by a single owner or a family, the entrance always marked with a wooden sign board proudly announcing the name of the ranch, atop two wooden poles. These entry ways are quite tall almost like some arches in some Indian towns we see.

Driving across the ranches flooded my mind with imaginations of how cowboys live(d). We were able to recall scenes from western movies about an outlaw fleeing by horse from one ranch to another and the Sheriff's people chasing behind him, the romances that could have bloomed across the ranches, the cheerful wedding gatherings, how bootlegged men would have sat around the fireplace smoking pipes while giggly ladies took part in the household duties of cooking and cleaning and child rearing without missing out on the local gossips around town...

So here we are at the Cowboy Church in Flying with the Wranglers Ranch. Similar entrance sign greeted us and we were queued behind many cars which were directed for parking by local cowboy lads wearing jeans and cowboy hats and of course the bandanna scarves around their neck. I was not sure if they are real cowboys or regular men in cowboy costume, but later understood they were for real as it was a working ranch.

I was a little hesitant to attend Sunday service in jeans but had no other go. My hesitation was short lived when I saw so many ladies and lads in jeans as if it were their prime attire.

The church itself was designed like a huge shed with open sides as windows, probably seating over 1000 (could it be?) people. It was dimly lit with the lights coming from overhead hurricane lamps, hung in the middle of cart wheels. Okay, they were not the lamps that use oil to burn but their electric counterparts. Beautiful Hymns of the past era were sang like "He owns the cattle on the mountains", "In the sweet by and by ..." etc. It was lovely.

In the back there was a table with all breakfast supplies such as coffee, donuts and other kinds of goodies. We had had our breakfast at the Marriott already.(Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, after trying out Econolodge and Rodeaway Inn for a day we decided to get back to Marriott as per our original plan.)

After the songs, Pastor Scotty Vaughn took to the stage and talked about JOY. Oh man that was great! I often talk about joy and keep up my good cheer but in the last couple of weeks the joy had drained out of me as I had lost my job so suddenly. So the message was so prompt for my soul and I got a renewed sense of JOY in me. One thing that struck my mind was that the Pastor had said the opposite of joy was unbelief! It means not trusting in God! Joy is the deep abiding confidence that God is in control regardless of the circumstances, yes I knew that, I say that to people but when my circumstances were not very joyful I had as easily forgotten that and so it was a great reminder for me.

Children too had enjoyed their Sunday School and we were off to some sight seeing later that afternoon to the Garden of the Gods and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo which I will share in detail later.

Just did a preview and noted that the post had already gotten quite long. So in order to save you folks from further boredom, decided to leave it at this and continue on the Chuckwagon Supper in my next post.... For now, here's some pictures from that Sunday morning (July 31st 2011)

Aug 8, 2011

Gold Mine Rock Shop

Our next stop was at the Gold Mine Rock Shop across the street from Echo Canyon in Canyon City, Colorado. It was not part of our agenda for the trip as we had not read about it when we did our research on places to visit in Colorado. However, we decided to stop by as Sharon collects rocks.

Sharon's love for rocks started when she was very little when I first showed her a pebble and said, "See how smooth it feels? Mommy used to collect rocks when I was little." She asked to keep that pebble and since then brings home rocks of all colors, texture and sizes. Her backpack would be invariantly heavy and I had to restrict her at one point that she can not bring home big rocks and only one rock per day.

You can imagine her delight visiting this rock shop. Though it appeared small from the outside it was huge with a wide range of collection starting from lava to calcite formations. Most of these rocks are from the Colorado mountains which are broken down as part of the Gold mining process. There are some from the neighboring states and from other countries as far as Brazil.

We purchased some green, blue quartz and amber and jasper for children and their Science teachers. Joshua wanted a geode. Geodes are rocks with internal cavities filled with crystal formations or other chalcedony deposits. I love agates, a thin cross section of a geode showing the varying thickness of multi color bands and translucent in nature.

For the rock enthusiasts among us here are some pictures...

Aug 5, 2011

Let's go Rafting and Railing...

We had the continental breakfast provided at the motel and set off to Echo Canyon for our Raft & Rail trip. A bus took us to the Royal Gorge train station (which was interestingly just across the street from where we were staying, which we didn't know).

The train was pretty long and had spacious seats and huge windows to allow everyone full view of the unfolding nature around. Also they had two open cars with no seats and just the rails on both sides, where we can stand and admire the mountains and river and enjoy the sun and breeze all at once. The train also had a food car to tempt the little ones with hot dogs and popcorn and of course some soda.

As soon as the train started to move children had some snack and then quickly we went over to the open car to get the best view. It was breathtakingly beautiful - the rocky mountains! It was nothing like I had ever seen. The mountains so huge, the river so wide; the sky so blue, the breeze so gentle, the whisper so loud, it was absolutely amazing. We started clicking our cameras fast in an attempt to capture the scene; however when we later looked at the pictures it was nowhere close to what we saw. Sharing a few here to give you an idea... towards the end of the post, there is a whole lot more pictures for those who are interested...

The Royal Gorge bridge between two huge mountains, the rafters waving at us from the tumbling river below, the cheerfulness of the fellow riders, the anticipation of our rafting trip that afternoon all generated an immense joy deep within and my heart was singing and praising and worshiping God Almighty. The lyrics from the song Majestic kept repeating itself in my head which goes:

The heavens declare Your greatness
The oceans cry out to You
The mountains, they bow down before You
So I'll join with the earth and I'll give my praise to You...

After a while we realized Amma was missing out on all these as she was still at her seat. I rushed inside to bring her out to the open car before the "show" ended. She wasn't as thrilled to stand and watch and so went back inside to her seat while we gulped down more of the scenic overlook...

The bus was waiting to take us back to Echo Canyon. Our package included boxed lunch from the 8 mile bar and grill restaurant which was only okay. We didn't care much for the cold sandwich but I loved the cool water they gave with it. Children didn't eat anything except the cookies that came along and some fruits. They weren't hungry as they ate something on the train.

It was HOT. When I say hot, I mean real hot; it was over a 100 degree. We grabbed our river suit and helmet and boarded the bus for the rafting trip. Just the gear made Mom reluctant to join but we pushed her along saying this is a once in a life time event and she can't miss it. Instructions were given in the bus as to what could happen and how we could save ourselves if we happen to fall into the river, etc. which made Mom more nervous and she wanted to stay in the bus. It took the bus driver to convince Mom that we would be safe and reluctantly Mom got down the bus to the river.

The rafts were big and round and bright blue in color. All of us could go on the same raft. We had a guide whose name was Cody, a pleasant young man who was easy to get along with. He checked our gear and tightened the few buckles and made sure our helmet was secure before giving us some instructions on rafting. Israel and myself took the front row, Rachel and Sharon on the second row, Joshua and Mom in between, Cody all the way in the back.

Wow! It was such thrill. Not the kind of adrenalin thrill, but the thrill of fun, cool water and the generous splashing. It was our first time rafting and soon we knew it would become a family hobby as all of us loved it. Cody was the main rafter as you can imagine. Anytime he said "Forward Stroke" or "Heavy stroke" or "Stop" we did accordingly and the raft gently slid the river. There were a total of 7 rapids we came through and each was much fun, quenching us from head to toe.

We struck a conversation with Cody and got to know he was a local from Colorado Springs area and lives in Echo Canyon through the summer. He is a recent graduate and wishes to raft for another year before he starts thinking of what's next. Rafting he loves to do but understands it can't pay his bills in a long run.

In Colorado he said tourism is the main industry that thrives. Other than that they have four or five military bases including the Air force Academy. In the plains there is some farming he said. About the river Cody said it is the snow melt from the mountains and soon it would run too low for rafting when all the snow is gone. During winter time there is no rafting but skiing and other winter sports attract visitors.

Along the river's edge there were photographers set up to take pictures of the jolly rafters. As we approached the last phase of the trip Cody gave permission to jump off the raft and swim if we wanted. Sharon and Israel took off immediately, Rachel was hesitant at first but after some push she too got down. They did a few lapses and then got back on board to finish the trip.

As we walked to the shore they had beautiful hammocks lined up for us to rest while waiting for the buses to load the equipments. It was the best ever and we loved it.

At $99 per person, it was a trip well worth it's every penny!
As promised here's more pictures for those who are interested...

Aug 4, 2011

Colorado the Beautiful!

Colorado is known as the Mountain State with Denver as its Capital. In the Rocky Mountains area where we visited, the landscape was quite unique in that the attractions were hidden behind layers of rocks and valleys. It constantly felt like looking through a three dimensional maze of rocks or a hologram if you will.

At first sight everything seemed quite dry and brown however from day two onwards things started to look more and more beautiful. The only downside was the mild headache which the locals associated with the elevation and suggested we drink plenty of water.

I wish to take you along scene by scene as it unfolded before our eyes but don't think it will interest you as much. Hence sharing the highlights of the trip in a three or more part series...

The journey begins...

American Airlines Flight 731 took off from Laguardia, NY on Wednesday July 27th few minutes after  11:05 AM - it's scheduled departure time. It was bright and sunny outside and we had a nice view from our windows as we saw flights taking off one after the other in a long queue in front of us. The Captain was counting down like "we are the 7th in line for take off, we are the 5th now, the 2nd to take off... etc." Finally it was our turn!

They served us coffee/soda onboard and we gladly munched on the snacks we had packed. The Captain caught up with the lost minutes in the air and we reached Dallas, Texas on time. We had a change over there for the flight to Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was interesting to note that we had gained an extra hour as we were in a different time zone; so adjusted our watches accordingly. After picking up some lunch from the food court, we boarded the next flight.

When we landed in Colorado Springs airport, we were surprised to gain yet another hour and hence turned back our clocks one more hour. Budget rental car company did not have the SUV we had booked so they gave us a minivan. Good enough! We  were an hour from Canon City where we had booked for the night.

Econo Lodge at Canon City was only so so. The decor was western with cow's skin hanging on the entrance wall and that itself put me off, but I didn't complain. Children were excited about the indoor pool; I too jumped in the pool and played Marco Polo with the kids. They were absolutely thrilled. For dinner we set off to a Pizza Hut we had seen on the way. It was packed to the rim and we waited to be seated while contemplating if we should go to a different place.

As we were waiting a lady approched us and inquired if what Mom was wearing called a saree. She was sweet and kind and said they were happy to have us visit them from far off and that they don't see this culture much around there. That was nice of her to say that.

Soon we were served and we ate to our heart's content and set off for a good night's rest as we had a early start next day... 

To be continued...

Note: Yeah, true I had promised to bring you only the highlights of our trip, but it became quite detailed... will work on making it short and sweet in PART II

Aug 1, 2011

Happy August

July is gone! August is here! At this rate New Year 2012 is just around the corner. Happy August to all my friends.

We are still in Colorado enjoying places around. Children are behaving, weather is bearable though a little too hot at times, America is beautiful everywhere we turn, so nothing to complain about. Only grateful for His providence so far.

The wedding was great. It was at the Airforce chapel followed by reception at the Doolittle hall. There was singing and dancing afterwards and for the first time in my life I danced too. Could'nt deny it when the groom asked me to the floor. It was such fun. Israel took the center stage stealing the show teaching them some Indian dance moves. It was a multicultural wedding and so it was a great occasion to get to know each other better.

Children are worried summer vacation will be over soon. Good thing we did not allow them to bring their Nintendo handhelds. They are looking outside their windows as we drive rather than looking inside their palms... I often tell them their childhood is wasted with these devices as there is no memory making.

Okay folks let me leave it at that. Israel is hurrying us to get started on our Gold mine trip this morning. Remind me to tell you about the Cowboy Church we attended yesterday. We have taken tons of pictures to share with you folks from Garden of the gods. Can't wait to share.

Happy August once again.

Friend always,
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